In short, Monterey Car Week, crowned by the exquisite Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, is the most diverse celebration of the automobile anywhere on the planet. I absolutely love how, throughout the week, there is everything from Brass Era cars on the concours lawns and Group V prototypes on track at Laguna Seca to post-War legends in the salerooms and freshly delivered Porsches reimagined by Singer and Ferrari hypercars on the streets. And the enthusiasm for each era or genre is so reassuringly, overwhelmingly strong.
There are collectors, dealers, enthusiasts, celebrities, influencers, lottery winners, kids and dogs. A lot of dogs. The auctions are just the start – there are hundreds of small events happening all week – major manufacturer launches, open houses, cars-and-coffee mornings, impromptu photo shoots on the water and, of course, automotive beauty pageants of international prestige. The Americans do a great job of making the countless Europeans who make the trip feel so welcome. I was struck by the fact there really isn’t anything else like Monterey Car Week in the world. The passion for cars is thriving. And it’s thanks to this passion that the collector-car market is strong and stable.
Aaaand breathe. With a staggering 653 cars poised to cross the block, over 80 more than 2022’s bumper crop, I had so many calls before this year’s Monterey Car Week from people wondering whether it was all a bit too much. Scheduling had never played such a big role – sacrifices were made on everybody’s itineraries. But, lo and behold, the trepidation was largely unfounded – the cars (mostly) sold and everyone can breathe a big sigh of relief. There are a lot of collectors who, quite fairly, hold out until Monterey to sell their cars.
It is arguably the greatest and most prominent public stage on which to present them in the collector-car world. Similarly, there are a lot of collectors who hold out until Monterey to buy. That beating pulse is vital and something for which we should all be extremely grateful. The many auctions form the backbone of the week-long automotive extravaganza, and without the hundreds of people willing to part with their hard-earned cash who descend on the Monterey Peninsula every August, Car Week wouldn’t be half the spectacle it’s become.
As always, it’s the small pool of headlining 10m-US-dollars-and-above cars which garner the most interest, speculation and discussion, both before and during Monterey Car Week. And on the face of it, only a handful of said cars found new homes across the week. Sure, they were truly wonderful cars. But, for their respective pre-sale estimates, they were not the very best of their breed. Firstly, high profile and according high value does not automatically mean corresponding quality.
“The results go to show that, at a lower value-level in the market and when the estimates and reserves are sensible, buyers are plentiful and ready to spend.”
At that lofty height in the market, buyers are not rushing to buy – they are fixated on quality, whether that concern condition, originality or provenance. As the value increases, so the buyers become more discerning. And if there is the smallest of cracks, it’s not what they’re prepared to pay that’s what will change, but rather that they simply won’t buy at all. There’s still a clear disparity between sellers’ expectations and buyers’ realism and there were a handful of cars unsold last week which demonstrated this.
Of course, the 10m-dollar threshold only concerns a tiny corner of the market. On the contrary to my previous point, it was great to see such strength at the 1m–5m-dollar level. The headlines from last year’s Monterey Car Week auctions were dominated by low-mileage modern-era supercars – a heady combination of a burgeoning corner of the market and sheer bullishness on the part of the American bidders. This time around, save for some glimmers of similarity (a 1m-dollar 488 Pista, anybody?), there were, bizarrely, far fewer lots to appease said bidders.
Amazingly, looking at the results, it’s clear that the 1950 and ’60s sportscars many were quick to write off 12 months ago performed really well at this lower level. “The results go to show that, at a lower value-level in the market and when the estimates and reserves are sensible, buyers are plentiful and ready to spend.”
I really loved Gooding’s metallic green 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB, which made a strong (almost four-cam) 3.415m dollars all in. In the words of my former boss, the estimable Simon Kidston, colours really do make cars. Then again, similarly so does specification. The ex-Walter Medlin 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C over at RM (3.3m dollars) has all the right features – alloy body, six carbs, etc. – and could make for one helluva restoration. Surely a Pebble Beach candidate for whoever took the plunge. If I had to drive something away? Bonhams’ 1951 Ferrari 212 Export Barchetta (3.9m dollars incl. premium) – not matching, but just the most beautiful and jewellike of post-War Italian sports cars, and with Le Mans history to boot.
I doff my cap, especially, to David Gooding, who did such a great job with the pre-War contingent of his catalogues – cars such as the 1914 Mercer Type 35-J Raceabout and 1912 Simplex HP Toy-Tonneau. The newer cars might be en vogue, but quality speaks volumes and collectors with patience and diligence will always value great cars, even in this niche corner of the market. I personally found it really refreshing to see not just Lexus LFAs, Paganis and Ferrari F-cars making record money in Monterey.
On a personal and admittedly entirely selfish front, the last week in California has cemented the fact that I need a Ferrari 275 GTB in my life. Team Girardo and I had the privilege of walking past the Hertz desk at the airport and collecting a gorgeous short-nose 275 GTB to smoke around in for the week. A matching-numbers 1965 model with Starburst wheels, it’s a car we’re offering for sale off-market (so if you’re searching, give us a call) and this was a great excuse to get a feel for it and the way it drives. The experience reminded us that the 275 is such a great ‘all-round’ sports car.
If you’ve ever been to the Monterey Peninsula during Car Week then you’ll know the streets are largely littered with modern supercars. In fact, if you’re into your Bugattis, Paganis and Lamborghinis, I’d bank that the sidewalks of Carmel and Pebble Beach are better than any motor show on the planet. I digress. There was a certain satisfaction in going against the grain and hopping from place to place in what I deem to be the most proportionally perfect and aesthetically satisfying 1960s Ferrari of them all – and yes, that’s in short-nose configuration! Even more satisfying was the response to the car. It was universally adored, from smartphone-wielding ‘spotters’ to power-walking elderly ladies and gentlemen.
Photos: Jonny Lao / Ken Saito